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3 JeM militants killed in encounter in upper reaches of Tral

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Srinagar: Three Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) militants, including one who police said was behind the killing of BJP worker Rakesh Pandita in June, were killed in an encounter with security forces in south Kashmir’s Pulwama district on Saturday, officials said.

Security forces had launched a cordon-and-search operation in the upper reaches of the forest area of Nagbaeran Tral in the south Kashmir district following inputs about the presence of militants there, they said.

“The search operation turned into an encounter when the terrorists fired upon the security personnel, who retaliated. In the ensuing gunfight, three terrorists affiliated with JeM outfit were killed,” police spokesman said in a statement, adding that “one of the killed terrorists has been identified as Wakeel Ahmad Shah, son of Muzaffar Ahmad Shah resident of Bagandar Tral, while the identification of other two killed terrorists is being ascertained.”

As per police records, the spokesman said Shah was instrumental in planning and executing attacks on security establishments and civilian killings of which several cases have already been registered against him.

“He executed a series of attacks on police/security forces and resorted to brutal killings of civilians   branding them as police/SF informers. He was involved in killing of Municipal Chairman Tral and BJP leader Rakesh Pandita at Tral Payeen; Shabir Ahmad Bhat, resident of Noorabad Tral; Mohammad Ayoub Ahanger, resident of Tral Payeen; Shakeela Begum, resident of Dar Ganie Gund; SPO Fayaz Ahmad, his wife Raja Begum and daughter Rafia Jan at Hariparigam,” police spokesman said.

He said Shah was also involved in a series of firing and grenade attacks on police and security forces.

Incriminating materials including arms and ammunition were also recovered from the site of encounter. All the recovered materials have been taken into case records for further investigation and to probe their complicity in other cases, the spokesman said, adding that police has registered a case under relevant sections of law and further investigation is in progress.

Talking with media at a press conference at the Army’s Victor Force headquarters at Awantipora, Inspector General of Police (IGP), Kashmir, Vijay Kumar, who was flanked by GoC, Victor Force, Major Gen Rashim Bali, said: “Shah is one of the terrorists included in the recently released list of top 10 terrorists wanted by the police. He was involved in the killing of BJP leader Rakesh Pandita. It is a huge success.”

Kumar said there was no collateral damage in the operation.

“It was a very difficult operation and concluded without any collateral damage. We cordoned off the target area, offered them surrender, but they fired and were killed in retaliation,” he said.

“The terrorists used to exploit the families of the Gujjar community where they were hiding,” the IGP said.

In a stern message to the militants, he said there was no hiding place for them.

“I want to tell the terrorists and their families that do not think that you will hide in the mountains after killing civilians and no one will do anything. Our force is professional and we will track you there also and neutralise you like we have been,” Kumar said.

Major Gen Bali said the militants were operating in the area for a long time.

“A solid message from us has gone out through this operation that there is no place for them, not even in the forests. We will get information about them and we will neutralise them. We will continue eliminating them by launching suitable operations whenever there is any information,” he said.

The GoC said two AK 47 rifles, an SLR, a UBGL and a huge amount of ammunition were recovered from the encounter site.

Asked if there were inputs on the presence of more RPGs in the Valley after it was recovered from the site of an encounter in Kulgam on August 13 where Pakistani militant Usman was killed, IGP Kumar said the security forces have no information about the presence of such a weapon in the hinterland.

“We have activated our intelligence and will neutralise any such threat if there is. The forces are ready and the counter-insurgency grid has been made stronger, and if there is any such threat we will neutralise that timely,” he added.

Replying to another question, Kumar said so far, only one “foreign terrorist” was killed this year who had “recently infiltrated”.

“The foreign terrorist killed in Bandipora was a recent infiltration, all the others were either six months ago or one-and-a-half years ago,” he said.

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